Dozens of members of the US House of Representatives have sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken opposing the sale of F-16 fighters to Turkey.
This follows Turkey’s request earlier this month to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets and the modernization of almost 80 of its existing fighter jets.
The deal, worth billions, is still working its way through the Foreign Military Sales process, which is subject to approval by the US State Department as well as the US Congress — which can block deals.
The bipartisan letter was drafted on the initiative of Democratic Representative Chris Pappas, of New Hampshire, and the co-chairs of the Hellenic Caucus, Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from Florida, and Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York.
The letter notes that the United States has already slapped sanctions on Turkey under the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) over its acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 missile system. Turkey has been ejected from the F-35 program and cannot purchase that advanced fighter.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defiantly announced his intention to purchase additional S-400s; he has also sent a Letter of Intent requesting the acquisition of 40 F-16 fighters and nearly 80 “Block 70” modernization kits for its existing fighters.
Additional sanctions should be imposed on Turkey
The letter reminds Blinken that his own nominee for Ambassador to Turkey, former Republican Senator Jeff Flake, declared during his confirmation hearing that additional sanctions under CAATSA should be imposed on Turkey should it buy more S-400s, and warns the administration against circumventing the sanctions by “trying to sell the jets to an entity other than Turkey’s SSB (Presidency of Defense Industries), which has been sanctioned.”
“Even considering Turkey’s (Letter of Request) under the present circumstances sends the wrong signal to Turkey and gives it reason to doubt our resolve while continuing to develop its military relationship with Russia,” the Representatives say in their letter.
“We share your goal of a Turkey that is rooted to the West, but we will not achieve that goal if the Erdogan government escapes accountability for violating U.S. law and the standards of the NATO alliance,” they add.
Several organizations back move to stop sale of F-16 to Turkey
The effort to prevent the sale of F-16s to Turkey is supported by the Hellenic American Leadership Council, the Armenian National Committee of America, the American Friends of Kurdistan, the Hindu American Foundation, the Middle East Forum, the American Jewish Committee, PSEKA, the American Hellenic Institute, the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, and the Armenian Council of America.
“Turkey’s illegal and unfettered actions are indicative of President Erdogan’s transformation of Turkey to a rogue state led by a leader with a nationalistic philosophy, Neo-Ottoman ambitions, and a complete disregard for following international law,” said Congressman Bilirakis.
“Erdogan continues to violate American law (the Countering American Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA), which alone makes Turkey ineligible for new F16s. But beyond his violation of CAATSA, he also acts contrary to American interests, with his dangerous behavior contributing to the instability of the region. For all these reasons, we absolutely should not sell Turkey F-16s.”
“As Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, I am proud to join Rep. Pappas in opposing any transfer of such advanced and sensitive military equipment to Turkey,” said Congresswoman Maloney.
“Turkey’s purchase and use of Russian S-400 missile systems in defiance of NATO standards and U.S. law, decades-long violations of the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereignty, and increasingly destabilizing behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean and West Asia clearly demonstrate that sales of advanced U.S. military equipment like the F-16 and associated modernization kits must stop.”
Read the full text of Rep. Pappas’ press release here.